“Cofact” Innovation Creates a New Culture of “Fact Checker” Fostering Thai society as Fact Checker for Collaborative Fact Checking

The key intent of the innovation of “CoFact”, or Collaborative Fact Checking, the newest online platform, is to help Thai people from being victimized by all forms of “fake news”, which was officially launched at the Digital Thinkers Forum#11 on “In digital age, why CoFact is important?” The launch was co-organized last week by the fact-checking and fake news preventing network such as Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Thailsnd Media Fund, ThaiPBS, Foundation for Consumers, The National Press Council of Thailand, Thai Institute of Justice (TIJ), JitArsa Bank, 77 Kaoded, ChangeFusion, Opendream, UbonConnect, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD). It is no less interesting for this new dimension of screening before forwarding the upcoming news.

Because nowadays Thai people are facing the problem of “fake news”, spreading like a pandemic in the society, especially the online one. For instance, misinformation on health, sales fraud, Ponzi scheme, online gambling, disaster news, as well as political issues. This causes confusion, and misunderstanding, making it difficult to believe. If the people in the society are not aware, they might fall victims or unconsciously become fake news spreaders. Based on the data of the Foundation for Consumer, it found that in early 2020, only between January and March, there were 1,055 complaints about health and related products filed to the Foundation.

Thus, the solution to enhance the quality of Thai society, particularly in terms of receiving and forwarding any information, Mr. Supreda Adulyanon, the CEO of Thai Health Promotion Foundation, a partner of the network, stated that there is necessity to create space for everyone to conduct collaborative fact checking. And that this CoFact community, either on www.CoFact.org or Line @CoFact, will become the mechanism in lighting up, and uniting the citizens to work together in driving the fact-checking process of the civic sector.

Similar to the representatives of Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), Mr.Frederic Spohr and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), Ms.Theerada Suphaphong, partners from Germany and Switzerland, who also agreed that CoFact Community will help Thailand in tackling fake news, and political hate speech. It is because the concept that allows everyone to be part of collaborative fact checking on the constructive and safe space is not contrary to the principles of Democracy, Rights and Liberties. It responds to the need more than fighting fake news with the use of state power.

But this is a very new topic, to achieve the goal is not an easy task. Therefore, CoFact Thailand was adapted for Thailand by using the inspiration from the CoFacts project in Republic of China, where the civil society of Taiwan believes in the civic power in tackling the fake news through the establishment of the common open space for every sectors to fact check as fact could change over time and factors.

Ms. Supinya Klangnarong, Co-founder of CoFact.org, said that to drive CoFact mechanism to be successful, it is necessary to expand the work from creating online platform to creating community of fact checking where everyone can help awaken fact checker-ness in themselves.

“This is considered as the media form in the digital era by strengthening the civic sector, and fighting fake news with journalism principles such as verifying the credibility of the source, and creating and turning this new value to the new culture of society.” She again emphasized on the next step of CoFact Thailand.

There is, however, a theory on fake news. It explains that fake news can be compared as a virus. The person who leaks/spreads it is called ‘Spreader’, whereas some fake news could spread quickly and widely because of ‘Super Spreader’, who could be celebrity, media influencer, or social influencer on other aspects. The solution is, therefore, using ‘Super Corrector’, who has the same level of influence to provide the correct information and to do so immediately.

However, if it is fake news at the community level which is spread on social media, Ms. Supinya says this needs ‘Many Correctors’—a lot of ordinary people to fact check, while also replacing with correct information—in order to stop such fake news. Hence, CoFact.org is a platform specifically for this purpose.

“We want to go beyond the Sure and Share approach. It means that in addition to fact checking any mis/disinformation, there must also correct it with the most updated fact into the database so that others could also fact check again whether it is fake or true. The press could too use this platform to verify its content before publishing it to the public.

Currently, there are 1,500 sets of data in the database of CoFact.org. Most of them are about health, COVID-19, and related propaganda. Whereas, there is not much data yet on social and politics as it is a complicated matter. Ms. Supinya announced that in the future, this topic will be made into in-depth news, by compiling a dataset then accompanying comments rather than deciding whether it is true or not because politics is a sensitive issue with many different aspects.

As for Ms. Kanokporn Prasitpol, the Director of New Media of ThaiPBS, she stated that as the press representative before publishing any news, the press must focus on multi-step fact checking on its content, coupled with the speed in presentation for the highest benefit of the audience. Because for the general public, including those living in Bangkok, the recognition of sharing information without fact checking is still a far-away matter for them.

While for Mr. Wannasingh Prasertkul, the documentary producer and social influencer, believed that, as a media consumer himself, if CoFact is practical and lives up to its expected effectiveness, it could be a great tool for the society, causing improvement on the discussion atmosphere in the society. Because at one point whether it is true, most of the people are going to still be in the state of willingness to consume information that matches with their belief, now they all could just send to CoFact, a reference point accepted and understood by everyone, in order to resolve the matter. This is all up to the credibility of the project, and a very broad and comprehensive database.

Same as Mr. Jikhaideel Chelaeh, the famous Youtuber of Deen Vlog from Narathiwas, who also agrees that this creative space of CoFact.Org will help alleviate the Southern Thailand conflict from fake news.

“I could remember that fake news in Southern Thailand has occurred since I was just a kid. It spread on MSN, then Hi5, and now on Line. The fake news situation is constantly escalating. For example, The Muslim burned out a temple in Malaysia, or A Muslim shot Thai Buddhist or the other way around. Such thing occurs almost every month, causing hatred not only within the Southern Border provinces but it became feud between the Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslim in the area. Even if neither of them do so, there is an attempt from some groups who try to create and benefit from this fear. This impacts the way of living and the economy. I can assured that having grown up in this area, there is no such thing, we all live harmoniously—Buddhism, Islam, and Christian. Therefore, if fake news is still circulated, the economy and revenue of villagers from the Southern Border provinces would never be better.”

This Youtuber from Deen Vlog also said that one thing that his friends and himself could do is to feed more positive information, and more facts about the three Southern Border provinces through creating this Youtube channel for the Thais and everyone in the World to see. As for the content of Deen Vlog is not touching upon estrangement, but instead by using positive framing of facts, which is really helpful. As for CoFact.org, it uses similar methodology but on the bigger and more credible platform, it could be another tool to, more or less, help solve Southern Thailand conflict. Therefore, this is a call for everyone to volunteer with CoFact Network in order to help with fact checking before sharing information.

Even Mr. Peerapon Anutarasoat, manager of Sure and Share of MCOT, also emphasized that CoFact is another channel in fact checking, which could be dependable for the people and by the people. It could also adjust behaviors of the people in the society to have more critical thinking, to look at any information with a fair heart, and to judge on rationality. CoFact could additionally be a space for experts and specialists to share the correct information on the online society. This is another good point. And, some information from the Sure and Share is re-published on this new platform too.

The CoFact project of Taiwan, the initial inspiration of Thailand’s CoFact.org, took eight months to be successful. It is supervised by four hundred editors while there are 20,000 citizen fact checkers who monitor and feed information. And, there are 150 issues per week being fact-checked and corrected. Therefore, CoFact Thailand will grow strongly in no time. The people in the country need to join hands in creating a new culture of fact checker so as to fact checking together with correcting before sharing to intercepting fake news from spreading.

Goodwill messages from Taiwan’s Digital Minister, Audrey Tang, to congratulate Cofact Thailand’s launching event in August 28, 2020

For Cofact annual event in August 28, 2020, Taiwanese’s Digital Minister, Audrey Tang who virtually appeared as a special guest to deliver a good will messages to Cofact Thailand and elaborated that: “In this era the explosion of information, disinformation has also become like a wildfire which causes social panic. It is an issue that we cannot ignore. To counter the tough challenges, we firmly believed that it is only cross- sector of partnership, we can reconsolidate to protect the value that we share which is a liberal democracy.”